Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Visiting Venus

Do you think it would be fun to visit Venus? Mmm, I don't think so! Because of its atmosphere, the sun's heat is trapped, and Venus is hot, hot, hot! In fact, the hottest planet in our solar system! Plus, it is covered with constantly active volcanoes. The few visiting space craft that have dared to land on Venus simply stop working and are left stranded there.

So Venus isn't the best place to put on your travel itinerary, but you can have some fun with Venus at home. Here's what we did to wrap up our Venus chapter from the book, Exploring Creation with Astronomy by Jeannie Fulbright. It's also a good lesson for some hands-on learning about volcanoes in general.

What is lava and how does it work?

Using some cornstarch (flour would be great too), melted butter (with red dye), a small plate and bowl, and you can see how lava works. What is lava? Lava is the melted rock that erupts from a volcano. As it flows and cools, the lava hardens, turning back into rock. Let's see how this works:

Gather your supplies. Place a small custard bowl upside-down on a small plate. Spoon your flour (we used cornstarch) smooth around the edge of the plate to form the "land." Melt a good-sized spoonful of butter with a bit of red food coloring if you need the visual effect (Skipper does). I used a measuring cup for easier pouring with the boys.

Slowly pour the melted butter over your "volcano." The "lava" is hot, runny, and melted. Now, let it sit - for hours, maybe longer, until the butter cools.

You should end up with hardened butter again to show it goes back into solid rock. Ours ended up a little soft, even after sitting out overnight, but I think it was the butter we used (Earth Balance soy/dairy free). But, it still worked well enough for them to see the process in action.

Make your own volcano!

Obviously, this is a classic experiment, but it never fails to be a hit. I cannot tell you how many times we do the whole vinegar/baking soda thing in varying forms, and it always amazes the kids.

Gather your supplies: baking soda, vinegar, dish soap, plastic bottle (a smaller bottle would do better), red food coloring (optional), and measuring cup.

Stir 1 Tbsp. of baking soda with a few drops of food coloring and just enough water to make a thin paste. Carefully pour into the bottle. (I had to pour it.) Add just a drop or two of dish soap. Rinse out the measuring cup and fill it up with 1/4 cup vinegar.

Place the bottle in the sink, and slowly pour the vinegar into the bottle.

Watch the ensuing eruption. Ours was a slow eruption, and just when it seemed to stop, the boys shook the bottle a little and more kept coming! They were thrilled, and even happy to help with clean-up in the sink!

Overall, Venus was a hit! Next we come to our own planet, Earth, but that will have to wait until after the New Year, and some time off for getting to know our newest member.


  1. Such great learning fun this week!! I love how Venus came out! I'd love for you to link it up at TGIF this week =-)

  2. These are such awesome activities! The lava is so cool! I would love to visit space one day! Thanks so much d=for linking up at Thrifty Thursday! Hope to see you next week!


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